Remote first – the new old art of workshopping

remote workshopping

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Workshops are an essential part of how we get to the bottom of things, understand and solve problems. Usually, workshops happen in big rooms, with quite some people, and a few break-out rooms for smaller assignments. As we have moved to the home office, the usual way of hosting workshops is suddenly not an option anymore.

How can you do something remotely, that seems so inherently interactive and collaborative? Surprise, it’s possible, just different and yet the same. These days remote workshops have become an essential element in our client and team collaboration. And it seems like this notion of ‘remote-first’ is here to stay. Prepping a workshop for your internal teams or with one of your clients? Here are a few tips that help you make the session as valuable as you’re used to.

  • Make sure to prepare your participants more than you usually would. Not only a technical briefing with all the links and rules for the session needs to be shared beforehand. Set the stage and sharpen the mindset by giving them a small and specific homework assignment to bring to the session.

  • Make sure to do a short and sweet introduction round at the beginning. Specifically ask them to check-in/out through the chat feature, in case they have obligations. This will give you a sense of people’s actual participation and enable you to engage more quiet participants pro-actively. Make sure to give everyone the chance to speak up.

  • While planning, think in categories of input – presentation, breakout sessions, discussion - and plan accordingly. Which parts of the workshop are for the whole group (introduction or opening, goal setting, examples, expectations, instructions, agenda, etc)? And what should happen in the breakout or concentration parts? There should be instructions and a link on how to enter the ‘big room’ and instructions on how to open a break-out session and invite teammates.

  • Timing is crucial. To keep people engaged, consider breaking the workshop into digestible units and when to best take breaks. We’ve had great results with sessions no longer than 2,5 hours.

  • The whiteboard or post-it wall is often the heart of a good workshop. There are many options online; we especially love Miro and Mural for their special features like the timer and dot voting. That being said, distribute clear roles amongst your internal team members to ensure a smooth workshop flow: facilitator, timekeeper, post-it writer, documenter, writing and sharing input, answering questions in the chat ...

  • Your clients’ technical ecosystem might be completely different from your own. Make sure to take the clients tools they are used to work with as a starting point when planning your workshop. Always do a test run with someone from the client-side to detect any issues before you start. This is the 2020 version of the good old “is the beamer working?”.

Admittedly, more preparation is involved here, but is that a bad thing? We experience well-prepared and highly focused, motivated participants producing valuable output. We’re sure there’s more! What have your experiences been so far? Please reach out to us and share your stories, learnings, advice. We’d love to hear from you!